Ben Franklin Lied

imageAmerica is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

Kurt Vonnegut, from Slaughterhouse-Five

The next time someone asks you “What do you do?” try not to tell them about your job.  It’s hard.  Making and spending money is so central to our way of thinking that we have completely confused value with vocation.  Ben Franklin told us  “time is money” and we believed him.  That lie has left us with what Lewis Lapham describes as “the self destroying swindle that the exchange rate between the worth of a thing is the price of a thing.”  Nonsense.  Ask a man on his deathbed how he wants to use his final moments and he won’t ask to be shown his possessions one last time.  If he’s lucky enough to have loved ones in his life, all he will want is their presence because – wait for it – time is worship.

There’s nothing like really knowing God and living each day in His constant company.  The riches of His universe are a poor second to His immeasurable love for us and when we see our lives as opportunity to love Him we open ourselves to a storehouse of treasure.  Despite what Lorde sang, we are indeed royal and we were born to live in the company of the King.  In Christ our relationship to the Father is restored and friend, your day will change the moment you see yourself walking hand in hand with God.

You will never again confuse what you do with who you are.


Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.


4 thoughts on “Ben Franklin Lied

  1. Ahhh, this is a wonderful piece, Rick, and a message so desperately needed in our society. One of the reasons I love the writing of Henri Nouwen is that his recurring theme is that we—you and I—are beloved by God. Money, status, and possessions have nothing to do with it. I pray constantly to be given the ability to see Christ in every person I meet, regardless of their appearance or circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So true! What price “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” though we carry it in the meanest of bodies and circumstances? “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV).

    Liked by 1 person

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